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"100 Soviet Chess Miniatures" by P.H. Clarke

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Apr 9, 2013
  • | 10087 views
  • | 37 comments

This week I will be covering a very interesting old book called 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures. The games were selected and annotated by P.H. Clarke. This book is particularly unique because the games are entirely by unknown players, and the games are also very obscure, despite being quite beautiful and entertaining. I don't think I have ever seen any of the games in it anywhere else, before or since reading it. So if you want to see some beautiful and exciting games which you have definitely never seen before, this is the book for you.

The book - as its title indicates - includes 100 games, all under 25 moves long, played in the Soviet Union. All of the games are from the '50s and '60s. As the author states, games by the lesser-known - but still strong - players from the Soviet Union rarely reached the West. And indeed, I don't think you will find any of these games in the databases even today. But starting in 1955 the Shakhmatny Bulleten began to publish all of the games from important events in the Soviet Union; and this is where the author got his material. The book is a collection of twelve articles (one chapter for each article) which was originally published in the British Chess Magazine.

The chapters are the following: 1. King's Side Attack; 2. Queen Sacrifices; 3. Attack and Counter-attack; 4. 'Crime and Punishment'; 5. 'Sicilicide'; 6. The Object is Mate; 7. King in the Center; 8. Poisoned Pawn; 9. Shorter Still; 10. An Exchange of Quality; 11. 'War and Peace'; 12. Finishing Storms.

As you can probably guess, the games are very sharp and full of complex tactics. The Soviet school of chess was known for introducing the "dynamic approach to chess" and you can see that even in the games of these lesser masters, candidate masters, and first-category players.

Where I got it

I think I bought it at Title Wave Books in Anchorage. I didn't have this book as long as some of my other ones - probably I got it when I was seventeen or eighteen, or even when I was in college; I'm not sure.

What's good about it

This book is very entertaining, and you can spend many pleasant hours playing over these exciting, crazy, and pretty games, which are full of wild and obscure ideas. The author did a very good job selecting the games. The annotations are fairly sparse, most of them taking up a two pages; but they are very apt and address all the crucial variations.

From an point of view of instruction: this book was clearly made for entertainment, but the student of chess can certainly get a lot of instructional value as well. You get to learn some tactics and attacking methods; you will learn a lot about the concept of 'compensation'; and of course you will see many examples of what not to do.

I believe this book would be best for somewhat lower rated players, from 1200-2000 (although players of any level could enjoy it). It is particularly ideal for those players whose weakness is their lack of dynamism or who have difficulty making use of attacking opportunities.

How it impacted me

I definitely learned many attacking methods from this book, particularly in the open Sicilian. It probably opened my mind to the limitless tactical possibilities on the chessboard. When I was younger (from when I started playing chess at about thirteen until seventeen) I was a pretty quiet player. I studied a lot of Rubinstein's games, I played the London System and closed Sicilian as white and the French and Stonewall Dutch as black. Around sixteen to seventeen years old I pretty much quit playing chess and returned to it when I went to college in Baltimore. Afterwards I started to play in a much sharper style, and I am sure this book was part of the influence.

An Excerpt

Here is game 45 of the book, from the chapter "The Object is Mate".

Any Downsides?

This book is in descriptive notation. Probably some of the variations are not particularly scientific - if you look at the above game, for example, you can see that the annotator is a little too optimistic about White's chances after Black's alternative 11...Qd7. The first variation (12.e5) looks reasonable, but in the 12.Nxd6+ variation, he misses 15...Rh7! 16.Rxd7 Nbxd7, when the white queen is trapped, leaving him down two pieces. The third variation is also very unconvincing. And in the 14...Rxa2 variation in the note to Black's fourteenth move, Black has 15...Rxb2+ followed by 16...Qb5+ with a winning position; White should instead play 15.Nbc7+ immediately.

Additionally, this book might give you the idea that the Sicilian is a terrible opening. It isn't.

What you should eat/drink while reading this book

Pelmeni.

Comments


  • 20 months ago

    ChessKingOfIndia

    Beauty

  • 20 months ago

    FaribBarif

    Not only have I had that book I bought it when I was 16 or so. But It was the first book I ever owned that had high level games in it that I could start to understand complex ideas. The book spells out a lot and as Bryan points out it does miss some stuff too. But so does most books.

    Bryan is a good player and very friendly in person.

  • 21 months ago

    Marcokim

    @pawnslinger1... exactly my point. Its relative... but goes to show how much more skilled a grandmaster is... I have seen a 2550 GM make mince meat of 2000 level club players in a 15min rapid, they didn't even come close to drawing one game, it was like he was playing with school kids, his chess ability so much more superior to theirs.... yet we consider them very strong players by our standards...!!

  • 21 months ago

    Pawnslinger1

    Stength and weakness is relative.  I am rated under 1400 so pastoryoshi you are stronger than myself.  My goal is to reach 1800 but compared to a master that would still be weak.  Bryan is an IM but compared to, say, Aronian, he is "weak" although compared to a 2000 player he would be very strong.

    Do you understand? Don't get caught up in comparing yourself to others or worrying about how they judge your strength.  Do the best you can to reach your potential.  Become the best player that you are capable of being and the rating will take care of itself.

  • 21 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    peace to you too

  • 21 months ago

    cookie3

    did you really think that IM Smith neds reminding of who his audience is????

    just seems you are over-reacting to something which seems you misread and are now trying justify your actions.  let it go.

    anyways.......peace to you!

  • 21 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    cookie3 - what the heck do you mean? There is nothing high about pointing out that something discourages me. marcokim - that is really interesting to know about magnus. It gives me hope that somday maybe i will get over this slump that i am in.

  • 21 months ago

    Marcokim

    @pastaryoshi... you need to loosen up otherwise psychological breakdown will be added to your "brain damage". You can't possibly take yourself that seriously.

    2000 rated players are not "weak" players but would probably struggle to draw a single game in a Category 15 (IM rated) tournament. So relatively speaking they are not expert level players. To give you an indication Magnus says that his chess understanding took off at 12yrs after reaching the 2300+ mark, its like someone unlocked a secret key and he could see the game through completely different eyes.

  • 21 months ago

    cookie3

    @ pastoryoshi-------PLEASE GET OFF YOUR HIGHHORSE!!!!  HARD TO SEE YOU WAY UP THERE!!!!

  • 21 months ago

    TetsuoShima

    yes this game is really cool to be honest.

  • 21 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    Forgive me if i sound like i am over-reacting, it is hard to type in a way that is accurate to emotions and tones of voice. But from a very anylitical perspective (as i think most chess players probably are anylitical) Putting the terms that close in the same paragraph sort of overlaps the thought "lower rated players.... whose's weakness is." It sort of the same thing.

    I don't want to waste blog space with an unproductive argument so I won't push the issue, but I will say that I consider myself to be a weak player, so i can't take too much offense personally. In fact EVERY OTB tournament i have ever played, i was the last place loser : (  When the last round comes I am always the odd one who doesn't get to play because the lowest pointed person doesn't have an opponent to play ; (

    I do better online than OTB mainly because of time control and i react slowly due to brain injury. but still i think of myself as a weak player. But I have a high level of respect for players whose's ratings are between 1900 -2100.

    I am not taking up their offense, but I have set goals for myself. My first goal was 1500. after reaching it it was 1700. After reaching that goal I set 1900, and after that 2100. (sadly i dropped back down to 1750 after some brain injury) Nevertheless. To aim my goal and try with everything in me to study and work to reach that goal, it is difficult to see 2000 mentioned as a "lower rated."

    Sure it seems like an over reaction, but still I consider that to be a "higher rated" category. As I see many Titled Players with ratings of between 1950 and 2100.

    I am just asking that you remember that the majority of people who read your book reviews are people who are lower rated players who really want to improve and need encouragement and see 2000 as merely an unacheivable dream. It feels like that to me sometimes, when i see that four years of hard work has only improved me from 1500 to 1750.

    Please remember your audience as being people who don't just read you for entertainment, but we believe that your articles will truly help us improve, and the terminology you use can make a big difference of how well we can comprehend your teachings. Your audience views you as much more than a book reviewer, but as one of our highly honored teachers.

  • 21 months ago

    December_TwentyNine

    This is what IMBryanSmith said:

    "I believe this book would be best for somewhat lower rated players, from 1200-2000 (although players of any level could enjoy it). It is particularly ideal for those players whose weakness is their lack of dynamism or who have difficulty making use of attacking opportunities."

    So to recap, he isn't callling anyone "weak." In my own opinion, he's saying that the book will help you find better moves in your own games if you study it. So by "weakness" he's referring to those players, regardless of rating, who could have more than likely played a much better move, if they were aware of it...the book helps increase awareness.

  • 21 months ago

    Marcokim

    I think IMBryanSmith was suggesting that this book would be suitable for non-master level players (players under 2000). There are some chess books that speak way above the positional understanding intermediate players.

    Its a bit like hiring Karpov to be your coach if when you are rated under 2000... his understanding level and yours (or mine) is too diverse for him to effectively impact any useful knowledge to you.

  • 21 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    All over the internet i see people selling this book between 200 and 500 dollars!!!! Shocking!!! but then i see plenty of places where it is only between 10 and 30 dollars, usually with another 15 for shipping. 20 bucks is fair, but 300 seems crazy, does anyone here think it is worth paying hundreds of dollars for a book that is openly available for 30 bucks in other places?

  • 21 months ago

    FM VPA

    This is an entertaining book which I read during my early chess career. OF COURSE, one has to be careful while making such wild sacrifices OTB but you do learn some chessic tactics leading to pyrotechnicsKiss

  • 21 months ago

    TetsuoShima

    nice game

  • 21 months ago

    GM BryanSmith

    Pastoryoshi and Chessplayer3060 - I did not say "weaker players". Please re-read. I said "I believe this book would be best for somewhat lower-rated players, from 1200-2000."

  • 21 months ago

    chessplayer3060

    The article is good,but I agree with pastoryoshi!Players between 1200-2000  are not weak players!My highest rating was 1446,so IMBryanSmith offends all the <2000 chessplayers,me too!

  • 21 months ago

    pastoryoshi

    i really don't like the way you say "weaker players between 1200-2000" It really discourages me cuz of all the hard work I put into improving. My highest rating was 1988, but right now I am in a slump around 1750, but I have checkmated many titled masters between 2000 and 2200. I know I am weak compared to some and stronger compared to others, but i think that "weak" vs "strong" shouldn't automatically be paralleled with a same ranking as "Titled" vs. "non-titled." At the very least it could be catagorized as weak - intermediate - strong - very strong - Superstrong. Especially since 2000 is calculated as in the top 3 percent. It is hard to say that someone in the top 3 percent is "weak." 

  • 21 months ago

    jimmybassy

    *I guess it wouldn't be an immediate mate if 19... Qxd7  20. Qxd7...  [foot in mouth]

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